So, how to get from Leicester Square to the O2 to get there in time for the start of Roxette’s first concert in London for several years. My LBC show finished at 8, at two minutes past we were out of the door heading to the car park. At 11 minutes past we were heading eastwards and believe it or not, by 8.45 we were in our seats having only missed ‘Sleeping in Your Car’ and ‘The Big L’, which I don’t particularly like anyway.
Roxette are one of those bands virtually everyone has heard of, but the cool people think are a bit naff. They’ve been around since the mid 1980s and have had some huge hits, which even the cool people hum along to. And the hits were all played last night. Well, most of them.
It wasn’t the longest of concerts – it was all done by 10.15, but there was a reason for that. Roxette’s lead singer is Marie Fredriksson. Back in 2002 she underwent surgery to remove a malignant brain tumour. It’s been a long way back for the peroxide blonde 56 year old, and there were times when it was thought she wouldn’t make it. Her rehabilitation lasted some years, but then she was back, and it was as if she hadn’t been away. Her voice has lost nothing, and although she is clearly physically frail, and sat on a stool for the whole evening, even having to be accompanied from the stage and then back for the encore, she put in an amazing performance which lacked nothing in terms of oomph or passion.
This was their only UK performance, which remains something of a mystery considering they sold out the O2 and did three concerts in Australia.
There was an immediate rapport with the audience who didn’t take long to get on their feet. ‘How do you do’ certainly got them going and it was pretty much a party atmosphere all the way from there. Roxette are a lot ‘rockier’ than they’re given credit for, and they almost went a little but heavy metal for a couple of songs, but of course it’s the ballads which most people associate them with. The first ballad they performed was the evocative ‘Spending my Time’ and then there was a beautiful acoustic version of ‘Watercolours in the Rain’ where Marie came into her own and her voice was brimming with emotion. Of course ‘It Must Have Been Love’, was a particular highlight and my own personal favourite ‘Listen to Your Heart’ was beautifully performed as the first of a two song encore.
Other highlights were there more recent hit ‘She’s Got Nothing On (But the Radio) and the heavy metal-esque version of ‘Joyride’ (preceded by a Brian May like performance of ‘God Save the Queen’ from the lead guitarist) and the medley of two of my least favourite Roxette songs ‘Dressed for Success’ and ‘Dangerous’ were particularly memorable.
Per Gessle, the less celebrated half of the duo, certainly entertained the crowd throughout with some well-judged banter. You never know how much of this is scripted, but it felt natural. Per writes most of the songs and is an accomplished solo performer in his own right. If you haven’t got any of his work, buy his greatest hits double album. As a vocalist he isn’t in the same league as Marie, but last night he really put in a shift and was clearly enjoying himself.
The only song they played which didn’t really hit the mark was ‘The Heart Shaped Sea’, which I couldn’t see the point of as it’s one of their least memorable. There were so many others they could have played instead. But this led on to ‘Fading Like a Flower’ which was clearly an audience favourite. As with most of the songs, everyone belted out the words.
Looking round the audience there were few people there under thirty or over 60. It was a concert enjoyed very much by people like me – children of the 1980s. Judging by the people sat around us it was a bit of a gay audience too!
I don’t go to many concerts but there have been two developments since I last went to a major one. The number of people who sit there with their iPhones filming more or less the whole thing is something to behold. They’re only concentrating on what they’re doing rather than enjoying the concert. Also, I got rather fed up with the constant flow of people walking up and down the stairs next to my seat. When the crowd was on its feet I suppose it didn’t matter, but people would just stop and stand right next to me or in front of me, without a thought for the fact that it disturbed people’s view. I could have got very annoyed, but for once controlled myself!
I left at 10.15 and was home in Tunbridge Wells by 10.50. I highly recommend the valet parking system!
All in all a fabulous evening.